Choosing the absolute best of the best isn’t an easy task. Much depends on extensive tests carried out, but a major portion of it also depends on you – the user. Everyone has different needs when it comes to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service and like it or not, it isn’t easy to find one that is the best in everything.
In general, though, having gone through a lot of VPNs I have found that there are a few big names that have come up over and again and rated extremely highly in all key categories. This includes privacy and anonymity, speed and stability, customer service levels, technical features and of course, extra features plus pricing options.
Quick VPN Comparison & Plans Review (Updated January 2020)
For overall excellence in almost all categories, there are three VPN service providers you should be looking at in 2020.
NordVPN is running an special anniversary promotion. Users buying their 3-year plan will get one of four possible free gifts from the company: Free 1-month, 1-year, 2-year, or 3-year plan on top of what they have just purchased. The promotion will run for one-month and ends in March 2020.
NordVPN saw an extremely exciting 2019 and enters this new year strongly. The brand has proven its resilience by overcoming some difficulties and stepped forward with a slew of new products and services.
Having been in the market for a while now, NordVPN has already shown its mettle. This serves them well as they bring forward NordPass for consumers and NordVPN Teams for business users.
Still, their strength remains in the core VPN service which already fields a remarkable network of over 5,000 servers in 59 countries around the world. This makes them one of the biggest, baddest dogs in the VPN industry.
They offer users stable speeds, reliable performance, excellent anonymity options and great price options. Even with slight price adjustments, you can sign up for their 24-month plan for as little as $3.49 per month.
Surfshark has taken us by storm and for a newcomer to the VPN scene, it is making waves. This 2018-founded service is fast, powerful and comes at a hard-to-beat price of $1.99 per month.
Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark has even now already grown its network to include over 1,000 servers in more than 50 countries. A point of note is that it also includes the Shadowsocks protocol which helps users in mainland China get past the Great Firewall.
The entire Surfshark experience from signup to sign on was very quick and pain-free. Even if you might encounter potential issues there shouldn’t be cause for alarm as their customer support is on the ball and will quickly resolve any issues that might arise.
Of course, there are also a ton of extras that come with the service which makes it number one on this list.
Extra features make Surfshark an extremely attractive option such as CleanWeb (block ads and phishing attempts), connect to unlimited devices and the near giveaway prices it sells long term subscriptions at.
Keep a close eye on Surfshark as their service quality is excellent and once they put in a few more years of excellent service, they may rise to the top of our list. As it is, they are an excellent budget-oriented option.
ExpressVPN is one of the most trusted and reputable brands in the VPN business and is in fact, one of our top choices. Based in the British Virgin Islands, their service is reliable, secure and stable.
Hosting more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the globe, its extensive network offers users from almost any country blazingly fast access points. The list of capabilities it provides is long and distinguished, including top-notch encryption, access to content on geolocation-limited services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer and support for P2P file sharing.
Of course, there are also a ton of extras that come with the service which makes it number one on this list.
Prices start from $8.32 per month onwards, which unfortunately is on the high side.
This name may not be overly familiar to many of you, but I was probably as surprised as you are feeling now. At first glance the TorGuard client will seem a little old-school and not as polished around the edges as our top two on the Best VPN list.
Yet the multiple feature options it has built into the service plus impressive connection speeds make this easily one of my top choices. The ability to adjust encryption levels may not seem like a great idea but it does allow users to balance security and anonymity according to their needs.
TorGuard is also beginning to offer access to the next-generation WireGuard protocol, which means that it is living on the cutting edge of VPN technology.
This VPN service provider has one of the most outstanding long-term plans on offer which I have ever seen. If you’re looking to buy in to a VPN and stick with it, FastestVPN comes as low as 83 cents a month on a five-year plan.
What makes it really special is that they have undergone extensive improvements and are much closer to the speeds their name lays claim to. All said, technical specifications are top-notch, performance is pretty good, and it comes with a 7-day money back guarantee as well if you have a change of heart. The only downside to it which I have seen is that it has occasional issues with overcoming geolocation blockers and it doesn't have the network distribution the top dogs boast of – yet.
Pros of FastestVPN
Dirt-cheap long-term plans
No logging policy
High availability and uptime
Cons of FastestVPN
Limited number of servers
Occasional glitches in geolocation-limited streaming
PrivateInternetAccess (or PIA) has a surprisingly large network of servers – in fact, more than TorGuard has. This is great news since in many cases, VPN speed is affected by physical distance from VPN servers.
It also comes with a very out-of-the-way client which tried to make itself as unobtrusive as possible on your system. This could make it either fantastic – or very infuriating for you – depending on your disposition towards the matter. Prices start from $3.33 per month on an annual plan.
Pros of PrivateInternetAccess
Massive server network
Integrates extras such as adblocker and anti-malware
SOCKS5 Proxy included
Great for media streaming
Cons of PrivateInternetAccess
Difficult to get to settings
Limited user Interface
7. Hotspot Shield
Equipping users with military-grade encryption and hosting over 2,000 servers in 25 countries, Hotspot shield is one of the bigger VPN service providers around. It is also decently priced at only $2.99 per month on a 2-year plan (with a 45-day money back guarantee!)
They also support almost all devices available today, from desktops to mobiles so you can go ahead and run it on probably all your dives at home at the same time – up to a limit of 5 per account.
PureVPN prides itself on its excellence in media streaming and bypassing geolocation blocks. This is great for Netflix and other services of the kind. Interestingly it has also grown past the standard desktop and mobile device support to branch out onto other lesser devices. This includes support for Kodi and even Chromebooks.
It also has a huge server network covering 140 countries worldwide – one of the most prolific around. P2P is also supported along with excellent encryption and highly secure servers. Prices for PureVPN start from $3.33 per month on an annual plan.
Pros of PureVPN
Dedicated P2P servers
Servers optimized for streaming
Cons of PureVPN
Headquartered in Hong Kong
Based in Switzerland, VyperVPN is a no-fuss, no-muss service provider that has been around for a long time. They also have the distinction of owning (not renting) their own servers, which means they have more control over the security of their services.
For those who are concerned about getting around geolocation limiters on services such as Netflix, this can be an interesting choice. They have developed their own protocol called Chameleon which is specially designed to help you hide the fact that you’re using a VPN service!
It’s easy to use and checks many of the right boxes at only $3.75 per month on an annual plan. Do note though that if you want to use the Chameleon protocol the price goes up to $5 per month.
Pros of VyprVPN
Based in Switzerland
Full access to Netflix and other location-limited content
No third-party-owned servers
Easy to use app
Cons of VyprVPN
Some level of logging
Slow support system
Once a top contender in the world of VPNs, IPVanish has lost a lot of its shine since the logging fiasco of 2016. Today it is owned by a different company and still offers users a chance to run traffic through over a thousand servers in more than 60 countries.
With 256-bit encryption, support for torrenting and free SOCKS5 proxy, they also offer users great agility in service access on their network. Geolocation-restricted services are a bit of a touch-and-go but overall, IPVanish does an overall ok job.
Prices for IPVanish start from $6.49 per month on an annual plan.
Pros of IPVanish
Get access to lower VOIP fees
Prevents deep packet inspection
Cons of IPVanish
Dubious reputation following logging scandal
VPN Use Cases – Why You Should Consider a VPN?
1. NordVPN – Best for Small Businesses & Students
NordVPN for Businesses
Business users have a far greater need of secure data transmissions and privacy than most other groups of users. Unfortunately, many VPN targeting this group are often looking at large scale markets.
NordVPN as far as we know are one of a handful of providers who are taking the needs of small business users into consideration. This comes into play with NordVPN Teams which can be bought in license packs.
Like their consumer VPN NordVPN Teams adds in some administrative functionality to help business owners set up accounts for their teams to use the VPN service. This helps them secure all corporate communications and allows them to rove securely on WiFi connections even out of the office.
NordVPN for Students
We’ve all been there as students; always short on cash and getting into trouble. Thanks to the explosion of digital and social media, security and privacy on the net has become a more urgent need for students around the world.
Although in most cases students would opt for simply the cheapest service, why settle for that when for a dollar more you could buy in to one of the top brands around. NordVPN fits this category nicely and pricing aside, offers students a whole bunch of extra features.
Their mobile apps and browser extensions also make them idea for students of the go, being able to work with their laptops and smartphones anywhere on campus.
Let's be honest – a VPN network isn't cheap to run. It requires companies to not just have the hardware in place at a global level, but also the software to help with establishing secure connections.
Unfortunately, finding the cheapest VPN service is also a challenge due to unscrupulous VPN service providers that offer cut-rate prices for products that are hardly usable.
For cheapest VPN service, the provider we’ve chosen is Surfshark. In all honesty, it was a close challenge between Surfshark and NordVPN for cheapest provider, since they both offer very reasonable prices.
While some may say that there are other options available for prices even less than a dollar a month, we really don’t recommend them. Remember – businesses need to be profitable and if a provider is charging you peanuts – it isn’t going to have much money left to invest in developing their product further.
Surfshark’s two-year plan also nicely fills in a gap that seems to be mostly missing. Most VPN providers encouraging users to sign up for three or more years to get optimal discounts.
If you’re considering using Surfshark on a month to month payment plan, the fees are around the same as any other VPN service on the market. Where it really shines is in their extended two-year plan (24 months) which comes at only $1.99 per month (see comparison table below).
Also, I checked with Surfshark support staff and confirmed that this price that you sign on for will be valid when it comes to renewal as well. This means that if you sign on for the two-year plan at $47.70, there is no price hike on renewal!
3. ExpressVPN – Best for Netflix , BBC iPlayer; and Android users
Use case for BBC iPlayer and Netflix
Some media streaming services restrict content based on location due to various factors such as country-specific laws, censorship laws or copyright. This includes the BBC’s iPlayer and Netflix. To get around this, a VPN service helps but not just any VPN will do.
Some VPNs are better at it than others, since the majority simply rely on server locations. The best will actively rotate server IPs and carry out whitelisting activities on previously banned IPs. In fact, some VPNs know they can’t support Netflix and do honestly state they can’t in their terms of service.
With its excellent speed capabilities and very broad server network range, ExpressVPN is likely the best in the business for streaming media from most sources – not just Netflix. Its speed can easily cater to HD video and Netflix is at definitely at the top of most people’s ‘want’ lists.
Use case for Android
Android is one of the most prolific mobile operating systems in the market today and the number of users it is gaining increases all the time. This is one of the reasons why there are increasing number of VPN service providers who are supporting this market.
The matter is given even more urgency when you realise that simply because of the nature of Android – it is intended for mobile devices – that a VPN service becomes an even greater necessity. Public Wi-Fi is notoriously dangerous to use
For Android VPNs, ExpressVPN is a great choice because its dedicated app has several excellent features. From a snappy design to power smart location picket, it is designed to make your life as easy and yet secure as possible at the same time.
Some of you may have heard that VPNs make P2P file sharing (Torrenting) faster but that isn’t entirely true.
However, what is true is that torrenting in some countries could get you slapped with significant fines or even jail time if you’re caught torrenting the wrong materials. In many cases there are also Internet Service Providers that frown on torrenting since they claim P2P file sharers are eating up most of the available bandwidth.
A good VPN – such as TorGuard, will help you get around torrent throttling by these ISPs.
We use affiliate links in this article. WHSR receive referral fees from companies mentioned in this article. Our opinions are based on real experience and actual server data.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.